San Diego had chiseled the Denver lead down to a touchdown with 3:53 remaining, leaving the Broncos with one final possession to either run out the clock or risk turning the ball back over to the Chargers in the game’s closing moments – just as they did a year ago, when Baltimore’s rally abruptly ended Denver’s season.
“That’s something that up front we’ve talked about all year long that if we’re in that situation again, we’re not going to let what happened last year—we’re going to finish with the ball in our hands,” guard
And they didn’t.
The Broncos converted three third downs on the game’s final drive – most crucially a 21-yard pass from quarterback
“I think it helps to have been there before,” Fox said. “They talk about golfers—it’s important to have the lead going into Sunday so you know how to handle it. I don’t know if I buy totally into that, but I think there is some merit to that. It’s making plays in critical times in situational football. That’s really the difference and the team that does that usually wins those close games and in playoff games, they are typically one-score games.”
“It’s a huge deal for us, especially—that’s something that we focused on all year, going back to the playoff game last year,” Beadles added. “That was a situation that we didn’t end up doing what we wanted to do in that situation. Being able to do that in this game and finish with the ball in our hands was a huge win for us.”
Now, as the Broncos prepare for the challenge of facing the Patriots on an AFC Championship Game stage that the franchise will play on for the first time since January 2006, the team will look to learn from another situation from the past – this one even fresher in their memories.
The team’s overtime loss to the Patriots in Week 12 evidenced just how crucial closing out games is not only on the offensive side of the ball, but for the Broncos defense, as well.
“It’s definitely a mentality. When you start fast, you’ve got to finish fast,” safety
“You know it’s always going to be a 60-minute fight. It was (against the Chargers),” running back
There are, after all, some rather high stakes hanging in the balance when the Broncos and Patriots take the field once again.
“A team like that, that has been behind before and has plenty of comebacks and has had success playing from behind,” defensive tackle